E-retail giant Amazon has launched a new initiative to install solar panels on its fulfillment facilities around the world. The company initially plans to deploy large-scale solar systems on rooftops of more than 15 fulfillment and sortation centers in the U.S. this year and is planning to deploy solar systems on 50 fulfillment and sortation centers globally by 2020.
“As our fulfillment network continues to expand, we want to help generate more renewable energy at both existing and new facilities around the world in partnership with community and business leaders,” explains Dave Clark, Amazon’s senior vice president of worldwide operations. “We are putting our scale and inventive culture to work on sustainability – this is good for the environment, our business and our customers. By diversifying our energy portfolio, we can keep business costs low and pass along further savings to customers. It’s a win-win.”
According to the company, the initial solar projects planned for completion by the end of 2017 will generate up to 41 MW of power at Amazon facilities in California, New Jersey, Maryland, Nevada and Delaware. Depending on the specific project, time of year and other factors, a solar installation could generate as much as 80% of a single fulfillment facility’s annual energy needs. For example, Amazon says solar panels installed on the rooftop of the Patterson, Calif., fulfillment center cover more than three-quarters of the 1.1 million square-foot building’s rooftop and will capture California’s most generous resource to power the hundreds of Amazon Robotics utilized by associates at ground-level.
Amazon notes its recent renewable energy projects include the company’s largest wind farm to date, located in Texas. In addition, a network of wind and solar farms in Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia are delivering energy onto the electric grid that powers AWS data centers. To date, Amazon says it has announced or commenced construction on projects that will generate a total of 3.6 million MW of renewable energy, and according to the 2017 State of Green Business report, the company was the leading corporate purchaser of renewable energy in the U.S. in 2016. Other examples of Amazon’s sustainability-focused projects include green corporate rooftops and the District Energy Project, which uses recycled energy for heating the company’s corporate headquarters in Seattle.
Additionally, Amazon has expanded its Career Choice program to include funding for associates to earn North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) certification. According to the annual National Solar Jobs Census, one in 50 new U.S. jobs created in 2016 were in the solar industry, which is a 25% increase from the previous year. To qualify for the exam and become a certified solar PV installer for commercial and residential projects, associates in this program will participate in 40 to 80 hours of PV design principles and practices learning, OSHA training, and hands-on installations, all of which can be provided by local community colleges and other participating accredited educational organizations. Because the solar industry is growing so quickly, Amazon says many PV installers may quickly find themselves in leadership roles as managers, designers, and developers of renewable energy projects across the globe.
“The NABCEP professional accreditation is a springboard for fulfillment center associates to enter a rapidly growing and in-demand workforce outside of Amazon as PV installers,” states Kara Hurst, director of Amazon’s worldwide sustainability. “It would be great one day soon to see former associates developing solar systems on the rooftops of our fulfillment centers.”